Cutting-Edge Solution

No knife needed to relieve back and neck pain.

Kechia Hignight loved her job as a hospital corpsman in the Navy. She remained in the service for 10 years, which included a year and a half in the Persian Gulf ministering to injured sailors. Following her military discharge, Kechia chose a slightly different career path.

Kechia sitting on a bench by the water.

Kechia Hignight

“After being separated from my children for 18 months, I wanted to be more present in their lives,” shares Kechia, 56. “When I returned from the Gulf War, I didn’t want to do hands-on patient care. I learned transcription skills while working as a legal secretary and was familiar with medical terminology. I basically fell into medical transcription.”

Kechia found her work as a medical transcriptionist interesting and educational. It also permitted her to spend quality time with her children.

“I transcribed for hospitals all over the country in every discipline,” Kechia muses. “The job let me stay in the medical field and learn about new equipment and procedures, but it also allowed me to work from home and be there when my kids needed me.”

Kechia thrived in that profession for 25 years, but was forced to retire a few years ago when pain from a back injury made it impossible to sit for long periods. Her injury occurred on a hiking trip with her parents in 2004.

“We were stepping off a large rock, and as my father reached up for my hand, I slipped,” the Illinois native recounts. “My feet fell out from under me, and I landed on my right side. I knew my back was injured the minute it happened.”

At first, the discomfort wasn’t terrible, but over time it evolved into severe nerve pain.

“On a regular basis, my pain level sat at a crippling eight,” she details. “It was so bad that I couldn’t run anymore or ride in a car for long periods because my fingers would go numb when I drove. When I sat on the couch, it felt like my legs were full of bees because of the nerve pain.

“Everybody’s head weighs approximately 10 pounds, but mine felt like it weighed 50 pounds. It caused the muscles in my neck and shoulders to be extremely tight. It felt like somebody was sitting on top of me. The pain was life-changing because it severely limited me and I had always been a very healthy and active person. It was horrible to live with.”

Seeking to ease the agony, Kechia tried pain medications as well as physical therapy, massage therapy and chiropractic treatments. Nothing helped.

Believing she faced a lifetime of pain, Kechia felt hopeless and depressed. But her fortunes changed in 2020, when her husband discovered Florida Health Care News in his doctor’s waiting room. In the publication, he saw an article about Craig S. Aderholdt, DC, of the Back Pain Institute of West Florida, and a unique spinal treatment called VAX-D® therapy.

He took the publication home to Kechia and said, You should try this. She agreed.

Dr. Aderholdt provides the most advanced treatments for patients in severe pain. VAX-D is a patented, FDA-approved medical decompression technique for alleviating pressure on the discs of the spine.

“When Kechia came to us, she was suffering with a very painful neck and back condition, with pain radiating into her arms and legs,” recalls Dr. Aderholdt, one of the few doctors in the country offering VAX-D. “Based on the physical exam findings, Kechia’s long history of symptoms and the results of her x-ray, I recommended VAX-D therapy for her.”

Better Than Traction

VAX-D, or vertebral axial decompression, is not a traction device, Dr. Aderholdt stresses. It works differently than traction and achieves significantly better results.

“Chiropractic adjustments alone can relieve the pain for many patients,” the doctor acknowledges. “But for select people with conditions such as sciatica or herniated, bulging or degenerated discs, VAX-D therapy has proven extremely successful.

VAX-D is effective at alleviating low back and neck pain, the doctor explains. It also helps with numbness, tingling and pain that radiates down the arms and legs. Kechia experienced these symptoms and was considered an excellent candidate.

“The pain relief feels like a miracle to me.” – Kechia

During VAX-D, the patient relaxes on a comfortable, computer-controlled table, secured by a pelvic belt or patented cervical collar, depending on the area to be treated. Carefully specified tension and pressure changes guide the use of VAX-D, allowing the therapist to focus decompression at the exact level of dysfunction. Most sessions last about a half-hour.

The VAX-D system is computerized, which enables the table to make subtle but targeted movements that create a powerful vacuum within the disc space. This vacuum gently draws the disc back to its proper orientation, pulling nutrient-rich spinal fluid into the disc and stimulating repair cells that effectively mend the disc.

“No other treatment can create such a powerful vacuum,” Dr. Aderholdt asserts. “There are imitators, but VAX-D’s vacuum effect is the most powerful one known. That is what makes VAX-D such a valuable tool for pain relief. Further, VAX-D doesn’t allow the muscles to contract, like other machines can. In fact, it is the only nonsurgical treatment that has been clinically proven to reduce disc pressure to negative levels.

Kechia walking on path next to a body of water

After treatment with VAX-D therapy, Kechia no longer takes medication for her back pain.

“In my opinion, VAX-D is one of the most effective nonsurgical medical treatments for low back pain, neck pain and sciatica. This innovative technology is one more tool I can offer patients as we work toward relieving pain and maintaining the health of the lumbar and cervical spine.”

Studies show VAX-D is effective in more than 88 percent of patients. Many report a significant reduction in back or neck pain after only a few treatments. Dr. Aderholdt emphasizes, however, that actual healing takes longer because bulging or herniated discs require a series of sessions to fully reposition.

“Some patients think they will get relief after a handful of sessions and they can just quit, but that’s not the case,” he maintains. “Patients must follow through with all of the required treatments to get the full benefit.”

Another advantage of Vax-D: It can eliminate the need for surgery.

“Many patients with severe back or neck pain want to avoid surgery, and that is something that VAX-D allows,” Dr. Aderholdt observes. “With surgery, there is the potential for serious complications. Because VAX-D is noninvasive, those complications are avoided.”

Kechia is well aware of all the complications that can arise from surgery. That’s why she’s grateful that VAX-D allowed her to avoid surgery.

“I used to transcribe reports of back surgeries, and the outcomes were 50/50,” she asserts. “Some people come out of surgery feeling magically better. Others go through the trauma of surgery and get no relief from their back pain. I don’t want to be in those circumstances, and thankfully, I’m not.”

Kechia received significant benefits from VAX-D therapy. She no longer needs to take opioid medication for her pain, and she considers that a huge accomplishment.

“My pain level now is maybe a three, and I can get by with ibuprofen or acetaminophen,” she beams. “There’s a considerable difference in the discomfort in my head, and the tightness in my neck and shoulders has greatly improved. The pain relief feels like a miracle to me.”

Night and Day

Marie Clift’s father was a 30-year Navy man. She grew up in the military community and learned early on that the Army and Air Force operated through the Department of Defense, which employs civilian workers. When it came time to choose a career, Marie searched the department and found a position with the Commissary and Exchange Service.

Marie squatting down with her dog

Marie Clift

“My job supported the Army and Air Force by setting up the military department stores for their BXs (base exchanges) and PXs (post exchanges),” Marie explains. “I worked for the DoD for 27 years and retired in 2011.”

After several years of retirement, Marie began looking for productive ways to fill her time. A former supervisor offered her a job setting up training classes for a marketing company, and Marie accepted.

“Being active all my life, I wanted something to do when I retired,” Marie elaborates. “My boss’s marketing company services the military, and I’m familiar with that type of work. But this time I’m on the other side of the table. Previously, I bought merchandise for the military; now I’m a vendor selling merchandise to their PXs and BXs.”

During his Navy career, Marie’s father was assigned to posts around the globe, including Morocco and Germany. Ultimately, he returned to the states and the naval base in Fort Meade, Maryland.

His final duty station before retiring was in Pensacola, which gave Marie a taste of Florida. When seeking an area to spend her golden years, she chose to return to the Sunshine State.

“When I retired, my husband was working as a consultant for Lockheed Martin in San Jose, California,” she shares. “After he was done working, we started looking for places to retire. I grew up primarily on the East Coast, so we decided to move to Bradenton. We bought our home in January 2013.”

For most of her life, Marie was an avid skier and horseback rider. Over the years, she took some nasty falls. While she never sustained a serious injury, she did develop persistent pain in her back that grew more intense with time.

“I’m blessed I never broke anything in those falls, but I certainly jolted some things, especially in my lower back,” Marie quips. “As I aged, things shifted. Most of the time, my pain rated a three or four. Until I turned the wrong way. Then my pain level soared to a 10.

“I’m an aggressive walker. I wore a back brace when I walked because any wrong move made my back shift out of alignment. When that happened, the pain would bring me to my knees. Eventually I couldn’t even make my bed or sweep the floor without my back going out.”

“I feel blessed that I found Dr. Aderholdt.” – Marie

For years, Marie visited chiropractors and was amazed at the pain relief she experienced after an adjustment. Looking to find a chiropractor in Florida, Marie searched the internet and discovered Dr. Aderholdt. She was impressed by the recognition he received for excellence in his field.

“I saw that Dr. Aderholdt won back-to-back awards, including one in 2020,” Marie discloses. “He was rated No. 1 and named the best back pain specialist in the area. That’s what drove me to the Back Pain Institute. I also like Dr. Aderholdt’s philosophy on back pain treatment. He believes surgery should be the absolute last resort.”

As with Kechia, Dr. Aderholdt recommended VAX-D for Marie.

“The VAX-D system gently pulls and separates the discs in your back that are a little compressed or are pinching a nerve,” Marie describes. “When Dr. Aderholdt put me on the machine, I couldn’t believe the difference in my pain. Since I started seeing him, the difference has been like night and day.”

Marie initially visited the Back Pain Institute in 2013. Since then, she’s returned periodically to maintain the relief she achieved through VAX-D. She also sought Dr. Aderholdt’s help for a second condition.

“I developed sciatica, which is extremely painful,” Marie reveals. “But Dr. Aderholdt relieved that as well. He advised me to avoid walking in the summer humidity because the muscles swell and can pinch the nerves. He encouraged me to walk early when it’s cool or in the evening when it’s less humid.”

“Like a Miracle”

Marie admits it took a little time before she realized relief from her pain.

Marie walking her dog

Today, Marie has no pain in her back.

“It took a couple of months,” she confirms. “Then all of a sudden, I didn’t feel the pain anymore. Today, I have no pain in my back and I don’t need surgery.”

Kechia and Marie express mutual admiration for Dr. Aderholdt.

“I love Dr. Aderholdt,” Kechia raves. “He explained the reasons for some of the symptoms I was experiencing, such as why I felt tingling in my legs, but only in my calves. He told me it’s because a disc in my lower back was compressing the nerve going down the side of my calves.

“And I never knew it at the time, but it turns out that this constant sinus pressure I had was actually because a cervical disc had slid to one side and onto the nerve that services my sinus cavity. Knowing the cause of my symptoms actually made me feel better. At least I understood why they were occurring.”

Marie echoes Kechia’s assessment of the chiropractor.

“Dr. Aderholdt is brilliant,” she exclaims. “I’ve gone to a lot of chiropractors in my life and I’ve been fortunate to find many good ones. But Dr. Aderholdt’s method is the best. Some people may not need VAX-D therapy, but I needed it and it really helped me. I feel blessed that I found Dr. Aderholdt.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Marie’s photos courtesy of Marie Clift. Kechia’s photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb


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